By Ryan McGreal
Published July 26, 2006
As much as Canada is often caricatured south of the border as being delightedly anti-American, Canadians are not happy to see America's long and slow decline toward authoritarianism and the collapse of the middle class.
For one thing, we like America and think it does some things very well. We have friends and family living in the US, and we like to be able to visit.
For another, Canadian politics and economics are directly influenced by American politics and economics. Due to a combination of proximity and the sheer size of the American economy and polity, we compare our policies first and foremost to the US. (This is a double-edged sword: we congratulate ourselves on having a much lower crime rate, better public health indicators, and so on, but often fail to notice that our own exalted stats are middling to poor compared to most European countries.)
Also, Canadian politics tends to get pulled along in America's wake, usually with a five-year delay. Our Conservative Party, for example, is like a branch plant of the US Republican Party, to the extent that US right-wing pundits were warned during the last Canadian election to keep their support on the down-low so as not to spook Canadian voters who don't really share the Conservatives' ideology but were sick of the long-ruling Liberal Party, which had got mired in corruption and self-preservation instead of addressing the problems Canada faces.
Similarly, the Liberal Party was like a branch plant of the US Democratic Party, which followed the same format: generally pro-business but seeking to occupy the moral high ground in what we may call rhetorical social justice without actually doing much to address real problems.
It makes Canadians justifiably nervous to see America's slow-motion self-destruct, because we're likely to get hit by plenty of shrapnel. It's also sad to see a country that truly was once a "beacon of hope" for the disaffected citizens of more oppressive countries lose its exalted status as a country founded on liberty and the rule of law.
Pax Americana was a breath of fresh air after World War 2, when the United States still had a direct interest in promoting the international rule of law and enjoyed what Zbigniew Brzezinski called "cultural appeal" among the citizens of the countries it was helping to liberate.
It's heartbreaking today to see that legacy exploited in the shamelessly self-interested imperial occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and domestically in the progressive curtailing of civil liberties in the name of protection from terror.
I don't celebrate America's string of recent failures. Instead, I worry about what they portend for Americans and non-Americans alike.
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